Ethan Zuckerman -- founder of Geekcorps and Global Voices -- is an activist who puts his money where his mouth is. For decades, he's undertaken heroic efforts to foster a global dialog using the Internet, taking practical steps to network netheads from all over the world, giving them the power to work together. He is one of the best-informed commentators on the extent to which the Internet has changed the lives of people in every corner of the globe, and he's also a person with a mission to help people better their lives through technology.
His new book, Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection, is a wonderful, hopeful, and sobering look at the state of the global net. Zuckerman takes us on an evidence-heavy, cautiously optimistic tour of the way that activists have used -- or failed to use -- networks to advance the cause of freedom and economic development.
Zuckerman doesn't claim that the Internet can solve all our problems, but he also sets out a set of problems where the net has an important role to play. By analyzing the successes and (especially) the failures to foster a planetwide dialog, Zuckerman signposts important examples we can learn from, and also juicy problem-spaces where we can direct our energies.
This decade has seen the rise of a profitable line of cynical, self-styled "cyber-realists" who claim that the Internet is an overblown fad that does more harm than good (or even deny that the Internet exists at all). Zuckerman's cautious optimism, derived from decades of hard, personal work on the front lines, is more rebuttal than they deserve. Zuckerman shows "cyber-realism" up for what it is -- cyber-nihilism, hyperbolic posturing that offers no remedy and no action, just a kind of hopeless denial of the possibility of using technology for good.
By contrast, Zuckerman tells us exactly when and where the Internet has helped, and shows us how we can work together to make it do better. It's a hopeful and useful book, sober but uplifting.
Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection
To call Shopsin’s “a Greenwich Village institution” was to understate something profound and important and weird and funny: Shopsin’s (first a grocery store, later a restaurant) was a kind of secret reservoir of the odd and wonderful and informal world that New York City once represented, in the pre-Trumpian days of Sesame Street and Times Square sleaze: Tamara Shopsin grew up in Shopsin’s, and Arbitrary Stupid Goal is her new, “no-muss memoir,” is at once charming and sorrowing, a magnificent time-capsule containing the soul of a drowned city.
There are three more stops on my tour for Walkaway: tomorrow at San Diego Comic-Con, next weekend at Defcon 25 in Las Vegas, and August 10th at the Burbank Public Library.
I’m teaching the Clarion Science Fiction writing workshop at UCSD in La Jolla this week, and tomorrow night at 7PM, I’ll be reading from my novel Walkaway at Comickaze Liberty Station, 2750 Historic Decatur Rd #101, San Diego, CA 92106. Hope to see you!
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